Dress No. 6 - Sailor's Uniform

The many layers of a sailor's "square rig", separated out to show all of the pieces.

Putting Together The Pieces

This is an iconic uniform--whether in white canvas or blue worsted serge, the shape and design of the jumper and collar is instantly recognizable. On special occasions and during ceremonies, part of a sailor's work is representing the service. And keeping a special outfit for public view allowed it to be saved from the wear and tear of other workwear!

Many of these photographed pieces could be worn as Dress No. 6 for men in the regular forces for inspections and ceremonial occasions in hot weather; but the correct cap would be a white cap. The blue cap was worn with a blue jumper for daily duties.

Uniform Instructions for the Royal Canadian Navy. Article 7.01 Dresses and Occasions. 1951.

Dress No. 6--In Hot Climates

Occasions: (a) Inspections. (b) Ceremonial occasions.

Class II

White Jumper
White Trousers
White Cap
Vests, uniform
Scarf, uniform
Black Shoes or Boots
Blue Badges
Decorations and Medals
(Note: when white uniforms not having attached blue jean collar are worn, separate blue jean collar shall be worn.)

Jumper Collar Collar

The Square Rig

The "square rig" is a dress that originated in the British Royal Navy. From the 1840s onwards, the dress of enlisted men was a short-sleeved vest (also called a gunner shirt or white-front), a jumper with blue jean collar over top, trousers, a lanyard, and a cap.

This white canvas jumper, worn by Seaman Marcel Barsalou in the Royal Canadian Navy circa the 1940s, shows how little of the uniform changed over a hundred years! 

The collar was owned by Seaman Arthur W. Gregory circa mid-20th century. It is worn on top of everything, and the three long ends are tucked down the back and wide V-neck of the jumper. The iconic square collar hangs free. There are no rough edges or frayed seams--the collar is fully lined in a coordinating fabric, and the V-neck of the jumper is reinforced with a blanket stitch to reduce the likelihood of a tear.

Cap Cap

Careful Construction

This vest and cap were also owned by Seaman Barsalou circa the 1940s. The vest is meant to be worn quite fitted to the body, and the denim trim around the throat protects against stretching and fraying of the neck opening. A careful construction detail: a reinforced section on the chest echoes the curve of the jumper's V-neck. That section of the vest is exposed when worn.

The blue cap is missing a ribbon--a cap ribbon identified the ship a sailor was on. The maker's mark reads Rogers-Rayman, Toronto.

Vest Vest Tunic

Make It Your Own

A darned section of this vest reveals an inescapable reality of workwear--no matter how well-made or reinforced a garment is, everyday use results in wear. 

This vest is a bit older than the other textile objects in this exhibit. It was made out of wool flannel circa 1890, by Able Seaman Thomas Welch (Royal Navy). A vest like this would be worn as a base layer, and would not visible when other layers were added over top. This is not the only embroidered piece in the Maritime Museum of BC collection; we have several similar shirts and vests with decorative stitching. Even in a collection of uniforms, the individuality of the wearer is evident.

The tiny chest pocket with an embroidered heart around it speaks to the irrepressible creativity of Able Seaman Welch; on the layer closest to the skin, hidden from view, his daily workwear held a part of his personality. 

What's In the Kit?

For all dress occasions, service members in the regular force of the Royal Canadian Navy received the same set of items and garments. Different combinations of these objects created different uniforms for different occasions. The objects highlighted in the exhibit above are bolded below.

Article 8.02 Regulation Kit--Men of the Regular Force

All Men

Badges (in accordance with 8.46)
1 Bag, soap
1 Belt, waist, blue
1 Belt, waist, white
2 Pr. Boots, leather, ankle
1 Box, cap
1 Brush, black fibre bristle
1 Brush, shoe, black horsehair bristle
1 Brush, clothes
1 Comb
1 Pr. Gloves, leather, lined
6 Handkerchiefs
1 Holdall
1 Housewife
1 Jacket, working
1 Kit bag
1 Overcoat, man's
1 Pr. Rubbers, black
1 Pr. Sandals
1 Scarf, blue
2 Shirts, working
1 Pr. Shoes, gymnasium
1 Pr. Shoes, leather, black
2 Pr. Shorts, gymnastic
1 Pr. Shorts, tropical, blue
4 Pr. Socks, black
2 Pr. Stockings, black
2 Sweatshirt
2 Tee-shirts, utility
1 Toothbrush
2 Towels, bath
2 Towels, hand
2 Pr. Trousers, working
2 Pr. Underwear, combinations
4 Underweart, shirts
4 Pr. Underwear, shorts
1 Utility Bag

Men Dressed in Class II Uniform (Petty Officers 2nd Class and below)

1 Belt, waist, white
1 Cap, seaman's, blue
1 Cap, seaman's, white
3 Collars, blue jean
2 Jerseys, uniform
1 Coat, oilskin, long
2 Jerseys, uniform
3 Jumpers, worsted serge, slide fastener
2 Jumpers, drill, slide fastener*
1 Knife, pocket, seaman's
2 Lanyards, knife, seaman's
2 Ribbons, cap
2 Scarves, uniform
2 Pr. Stockings, seaboot
2 Pr. Trousers, drill, slide fastener
3 Pr. Trousers, worsted serge, slide fastener
2 Vests, uniform, cotton
2 Vests, uniform, flannel

[The Royal Canadian Navy. (1951). Uniform Instructions for The Royal Canadian Navy (BRCN 108 ed.). King’s Printer and Controller of Stationery.]

*slide fasteners refer to zippers; the jumper in this exhibit was issued prior to zippers being used